TORONTO — Paul Robertson, Executive Vice President of Shaw Communications and President of Shaw Media, passed away Tuesday after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 59.
“He was a warm and caring leader with an infectious sense of humour and a relentless passion for our industry,” said Brad Shaw, CEO of Shaw Communications, in a statement.
“He lived every day with heart and laughter, and he generously shared his wisdom and insight with all around him.”
Shaw described Robertson as “without a doubt, one of a kind.”
While not familiar to most Canadians, Robertson was a key figure in developing what they see on Global, on Shaw Media’s 19 speciality channels and on Globalnews.ca.
He was also a well-known and respected figure in the broadcasting industry with more than 30 years of management experience.
Robertson assumed his role at Shaw Media in 2010 following the acquisition of Canwest by Shaw Communications.
Robertson had an honours degree in Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
Key jobs at Campbell Soup Co. and General Foods led to senior marketing and programming positions at CTV and terms as president of production company Nelvana and Corus Television.
“There are few people on Earth who I was closer to and who I learned so much from,” said Troy Reeb, Senior Vice President of Global News & Station Operations, who credited Robertson with significantly expanding Global News operations to better serve Canadians.
“A big chunk of the country owes a debt of gratitude to Paul,” said Reeb. “He has been a tremendous champion of a fair and independent Global News. He knew that the heart and soul of Global rested with how it connected with its audiences and community through news and at the local level.”
WATCH: Paul Robertson tribute video
An affable, funny man with a calm demeanour, Robertson’s leadership style was decidedly open and nurturing, according to those who worked with him.
“He was never a leader to tell you what to do,” Reeb recalled. “He was always a leader that allowed you to make mistakes — to grow and to learn from them — and he allowed you to be your best.
“He never tried to soak up other people’s sunlight.”
Shaw agreed. “He was deeply connected to his employees and his team, and loved seeing people thrive, energized by the success of others,” he said.
Reeb said Robertson’s unwavering optimism likely prolonged his life. Pancreatic cancer, even when diagnosed early, rarely has a good prognosis.
“I honestly believe that the reason he managed to fight this for so long was simply because he believed he could,” said Reeb, “and he maintained that optimistic attitude that not only could he beat this back but he was going to get every single bit out of life while he did.”
In addition to his business experience, Robertson was a director at the Canadian Film Centre and previously served as president of the executive committee for Concerned Children’s Advertisers and as chair of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.
In his statement, Shaw paid tribute to Robertson’s passion for music and skill at playing the guitar.
“Paul loved music and the rhythm it provided to his life,” said Shaw. “Songs and lyrics meant something to him and they seemed to punctuate every conversation.”
Shaw urged those who knew Robertson to honour him by listening “to a song that means something to you.”
On Wednesday morning, Bell Media president Kevin Crull paid tribute to Robertson, calling him “an inspiring leader and a dedicated champion of our industry.”
In a statement, Crull said: “He was not only a competitor but a friend, quickly becoming a role model to me when I entered the unfamiliar territory of the media industry. As we discussed the challenges of the industry, he was always insightful, wise and rational. His optimism and can-do spirit never faltered.
“Paul was an inspiration to me and the many others whom he touched and influenced, and will be missed.”
Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair tweeted that he was “very sorry” to hear of Robertson’s passing and offered condolences to his loved ones.
Robertson leaves behind his wife Carole and their daughter Danielle.
If desired, and in lieu flowers, memorial donations may be directed to the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care or the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
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